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First Latino US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera on Migrant Farmworkers, the Border and Ayotzinapa

Democracy Now - Fri 07 46 AM

We speak with Juan Felipe Herrera, who has begun his term as the 21st poet laureate of the United States. A son of Mexican migrant farmworkers, Herrera is the first Latino poet laureate of the United States. Written in both English and Spanish, his work has been celebrated over the past four decades for its energy, humor, emotion and ability to capture the consciousness of a cross-section of America. In announcing Herrera’s appointment, Library of Congress Director James H. Billington said, “I see in Herrera’s poems the work of an American original—work that takes the sublimity and largesse of 'Leaves of Grass' and expands upon it. His poems … champion voices and traditions and histories, as well as a cultural perspective, which is a vital part of our larger American identity." Herrera is the author of 28 books, including "187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border" and, mostly recently, "Notes on the Assemblage." He is a past winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award. Herrera discusses the role of poets in social movements, and reads his poem "Ayotzinapa," about the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico.

Making Money from Misery? Disaster Capitalism from the Migrant Crisis to Afghanistan and Haiti

Democracy Now - Fri 07 26 AM

When disaster strikes, who profits? That’s the question asked by journalist Antony Loewenstein in his new book, “Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe.” Traveling across the globe, Loewenstein examines how companies such as G4S, Serco and Halliburton are cashing in on calamity, and describes how they are deploying for-profit private contractors to war zones and building for-profit private detention facilities to warehouse refugees, prisoners and asylum seekers. Recently, Loewenstein teamed up with filmmaker Thor Neureiter for a documentary by the same name that chronicles how international aid and investment has impacted communities in Haiti, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and beyond.

Nobel Peace Prize to Tunisian Civil Society Groups for Democratization Efforts After Arab Spring

Democracy Now - Fri 07 10 AM

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a coalition of civil society organizations known as the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. The move comes nearly five years after a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, sparking the Arab Spring that included the ouster of Tunisia’s longtime, U.S.-backed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. "The quartet was formed in the summer of 2013 when the democratization process was in danger of collapsing as a result of political assassinations and widespread social unrest. It established an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war," said Kaci Kullmann Five, Norwegian Nobel Committee chair. The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is composed of four organizations: the Tunisian General Labour Union; the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. The committee said it hopes its recognition of the quartet’s achievements will "serve as an example that will be followed by other countries." We speak with Sarah Chayes, senior associate of the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She writes about Tunisia in her recent book, "Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security."

"People Have the Power": Patti Smith on Pope Francis and Her Performances at the Vatican

Democracy Now - Thu 07 51 AM

Over the last two years, Patti Smith has twice been invited to sing at the Vatican. We air part of her performance of "People Have the Power" and talk to her about why she cheered when the new pope took the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi.

Patti Smith on 19th Century Poet William Blake and on Creating Political Art "Unapologetically"

Democracy Now - Thu 07 39 AM

Legendary musician Patti Smith performs her song "My Blakean Year" in the Democracy Now! studio and talks about the influence of poet William Blake (1757–1827). We also air a recording of Smith singing a version of Blake’s poem "The Tyger." Smith has long been praised for mixing poetry and rock music.

Patti Smith on Closing Guantánamo, Remembering Rachel Corrie and Feeling Frustrated with Obama

Democracy Now - Thu 07 30 AM

Beside being known for her music and writing, Patti Smith has been a longtime activist, performing regularly at antiwar rallies and political benefits. She has also written songs about former Guantánamo prisoner Murat Kurnaz and Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old college student who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003. She talks about these songs and her assessment of the Obama administration.

Legendary Patti Smith on Her New Memoir "M Train" & National Book Award Winner "Just Kids"

Democracy Now - Thu 07 08 AM

In a Democracy Now! special, the legendary poet, singer, activist Patti Smith joins us for the hour. Her new memoir "M Train" has just been published. In 2010, her best-selling memoir, "Just Kids," won a National Book Award. "Just Kids" examined her relationship with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989. The new memoir focuses in part on Smith’s late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, who died five years later. Patti Smith is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of "Horses," her landmark debut album, which has been hailed as one of the top 100 albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Does Free Speech Have a Palestine Exception? Dismissed Professor Steven Salaita Speaks Out

Democracy Now - Wed 07 47 AM

A new report by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal has documented hundreds of cases of Palestinian rights activists in the United States being harassed, disciplined, fired, sued, censored or threatened for their advocacy around Palestine. Eighty-five percent of these cases targeted students or scholars. We look at the case of Steven Salaita. Last year, his job offer for a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn after he posted tweets harshly critical of the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. The school had come under pressure from donors, students, parents and alumni critical of Salaita’s views, with some threatening to withdraw financial support. His case caused a firestorm, with thousands of academics signing petitions calling for Salaita’s reinstatement, several lecturers canceling appearances and the American Association of University Professors calling the school’s actions "inimical to academic freedom and due process." In August, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise resigned after she was implicated in a scandal that involved attempting to hide emails detailing Salaita’s ouster. We speak with Steven Salaita and attorney Maria LaHood, who is representing Salaita in his ongoing lawsuit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Einstein's Definition of Insanity": Father of Slain Reporter on GOP Candidates' Gun Control Remarks

Democracy Now - Wed 07 28 AM

As the United States experiences more than one mass shooting per day, the issue of gun regulation is emerging as a hot topic on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. As Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has vowed to curb gun violence, Republican presidential candidates have refused calls for gun control in the wake of last week’s massacre at Umpqua Community College. Donald Trump told NBC’s Meet the Press that mass shooters are "geniuses in a certain way. They are going to be able to break the system." John Kasich told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, "I don’t think gun control would solve this problem. The deeper issue is alienation. The deeper issue is loneliness." Ben Carson implied that the Oregon shooting victims didn’t do enough to save themselves, saying, "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me." And Jeb Bush seemed to shrug off last week’s mass shooting, saying on Friday afternoon, "stuff happens." We’re joined by Andy Parker, the father of 24-year-old broadcast journalist Alison Parker, who was shot dead on live television in August, and by Arkadi Gerney, senior vice president at the Center for American Progress who formerly worked with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the national coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Father of Journalist Shot Dead On-Air in Virginia Speaks Out to End U.S. Gun Violence Epidemic

Democracy Now - Wed 07 09 AM

On August 26 in Roanoke, Virginia, two journalists were fatally shot on live television during a morning broadcast of the local news station WDBJ. Twenty-four-year-old broadcast journalist Alison Parker and 27-year-old cameraman Adam Ward died after Vester Flanagan approached the set and began shooting. Flanagan was a former journalist at the station who had been fired two years ago. Flanagan later shot himself. It was the 246th mass shooting in the United States this year. Just over a month later, a gunman named Chris Harper-Mercer opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killing nine people before taking his own life. Later that same day in northern Florida, a gunman killed two people and injured another before taking his own life. Then on Friday, one person died and four others were injured in a shooting in Baltimore—bringing the year’s total of mass shootings to at least 296. We speak with Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker. Since her death in August, Parker has called for the passage of stronger gun laws. He says he’ll dedicate his life to this fight.

Remembering Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015): "We Have to Change Ourselves in Order to Change the World"

Democracy Now - Tue 07 39 AM

The legendary Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs died Monday at the age of 100. She was born in Rhode Island in 1915 to Chinese immigrant parents. She would go on to become deeply involved with the civil rights, black power, labor, environmental justice and feminist movements. Over the past decade Grace Lee Boggs was a frequent guest on Democracy Now! Her profile grew in 2013 with the release of the Peabody Award-winning documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.” The film captures Boggs’ remarkable life story from collaborating with C.L.R. James to organizing with Malcolm X to starting Detroit Summer. We air interviews of Boggs on Democracy Now!, excepts from the documentary and speak to her close friend and caretaker Alice Jennings.

NAFTA on Steroids: Consumer Groups Slam the TPP as 12 Nations Agree to Trade Accord

Democracy Now - Tue 07 19 AM

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached an agreement Monday on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade accord in history. The agreement has been negotiated for eight years in secret and will encompass 40 percent of the global economy. The secret 30-chapter text has still not been made public, although sections of draft text have been leaked by WikiLeaks during the negotiations. Congress will have at least 90 days to review the TPP before President Obama can sign it. The Senate granted Obama approval to fast-track the measure and present the agreement to Congress for a yes-or-no vote with no amendments allowed. During Senate hearings in April, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders fought fast track, warning that the American people need time to understand the TPP. He issued a statement Monday saying, “I am disappointed but not surprised by the decision to move forward on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that will hurt consumers and cost American jobs. Wall Street and other big corporations have won again. It is time for the rest of us to stop letting multi-national corporations rig the system to pad their profits at our expense." Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, joins us to discuss TPP.

Breast Cancer Patient Arrested for Protesting TPP: "This is Price Gouging at the Cost of Lives"

Democracy Now - Tue 07 10 AM

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations reached an agreement Monday on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade accord in history. The agreement has been negotiated for eight years in secret and will encompass 40 percent of the global economy. Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a statement calling TPP "disastrous" and vowed to fight it in Congress. One sticking point on the TPP had been the so-called death sentence clause, extending drug company monopolies on medicines. The United States and drug companies had pressed for longer monopolies on new biotech drugs, while multiple countries opposed the push, saying it could deny life-saving medicines to patients who cannot afford high prices. The compromise reportedly includes monopolies of between five and eight years. Last week in Atlanta, Zahara Heckscher, a cancer patient, disrupted TPP negotiations and was arrested as she demanded access to the secret text to see whether it includes a "death sentence clause." Heckscher joins us to talk about her arrest and why she says "it would actually condemn women to death."

Naomi Klein on The Leap Manifesto & What a System of Climate and Economic Justice Looks Like

Democracy Now - Mon 07 52 AM

Ahead of Canada’s October 19 elections, a coalition of Canadian labor, indigenous rights, climate justice, anti-poverty and migrant rights organizations have released The Leap Manifesto, a plan to transition away from fossil fuels to a 100 percent clean economy by the middle of this century. “A lot of the polling in Canada is showing that people don’t want just gradual, incremental change,” says Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” “They’re ready for more dramatic change. And this is why we’re seeing more support for The Leap Manifesto. Stephen Harper is an incredibly unpopular prime minister, and because of that, there are a lot of people who are going to be voting strategically for whoever they believe has the best chance of beating Harper, because there’s a lot of concern about splitting the vote.” We speak with Klein and Avi Lewis, the duo behind the new climate change documentary, "This Changes Everything," about the effort, as well as Canadian politics and the move by Shell against drilling in the Arctic.

Naomi Klein & Avi Lewis: Climate Change Could Be Catalyst to Build a Fairer Economic System

Democracy Now - Mon 07 36 AM

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is calling this weekend’s torrential rainfall that has triggered flooding and led to eight deaths in the Carolinas a once-in-a-millennium downpour. According to the National Weather Service, the storm had dumped more than 20 inches of rain in parts of central South Carolina since Friday. This month also marks the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, one of the most destructive storms in the nation’s history. Researchers say such extreme weather events are becoming more frequent with the effects of climate change, with 2015 on track to be the hottest year in recorded history. In Part Two of our conversation with Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis on their new film, "This Changes Everything," we talk about what we can learn from such extreme weather events.

Mission Accomplished Redux: 1 Year After "End" to War in Afghanistan, Aid Workers Reveal Real Story

Democracy Now - Mon 07 22 AM

While many Americans believe that the war in Afghanistan is winding down, peace activists and medical aid workers tell a different story. "That really shows how mainstream media has failed to tell the truth to the world," says Dr. Hakim, a medical doctor who has provided humanitarian relief in Afghanistan for the last decade. "The war is going on. It is deteriorating. Both the International Red Cross and the United Nations have reported an increase in civilian deaths over the past few years. So it is getting worse. It is definitely not scaling down. And I think Americans need to know that their taxpayer money is going to a war that is worsening." Doctors Without Borders is calling for an independent investigation of a U.S. airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz that left 22 dead, including 12 staff members and 10 patients, three of them children. We speak with Dr. Hakim, as well as Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, who just returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Dr. Gino Strada, co-founder of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical care to victims of war.